It finally happened

It finally happened. Whenever I ride my bicycle by myself, and when I have a reasonable amount of time, I stop to raise fallen bicycles. I do this for three reasons. The first is obvious, I don’t like others to find their bicycle fallen over. It’s a special kind of sadness to find it lying there. You see it and think “Hm, that’s a little bit sad”, and I often get really sad because I tend to personify my treasured belongings. My two bicycles are very close to me, and to me they’ve got distinct personalities and I feel very bad if I leave them out in bad weather, or find them fallen. I would just be really happy if someone raised my bicycle if it had fallen, so I try to give that to the world.

(disclaimer, pictures in the post is not of the bicycles I raised, they’re of a bicycle I raised in Warsaw)

The second reason is slightly more convoluted. I raise up bicycles because I want people to see me doing it. I hope to inspire others to believe in the goodness of others. In the back of my mind I expect someone to see me and think “I will do this also!”. I would love if that happened, and I hope that it already has, but I can’t know of course. Many cynical voices have raised the concern that this is all for nothing, and that people simply aren’t like this. But I actively choose to be naive in these matters, I believe that in order to make the world a warmer place then we have to choose to be naive.

The third reason is just selfish. The third reason is that I want the owner of the bicycle to see me, and come over and say “Oh wow, you just raised my bicycle, you’re amazing!” and I’ll respond “Oh it’s nothing, don’t worry about it, I do all the time…” and they’ll ask “Wow, why? that’s amazing” and I’ll say something self-deprecating and falsely humble… And the rest of my day would just be magical.

Today the third reason turned into reality. I was riding towards the lakes on my bicycle to spend a little time in the sun before contact improv.

On the most boring part of the trip I spot two bicycles that are fallen over. I stop as fast as my worn down brakes allow me and get off. It’s winter in Copenhagen so I’m wearing a hat and a face-mask making me look like a crossover between a bike messenger and a burglar. I rest my bicycle against an advertisement box standing alone like some planet of the apes obelisk. I begin raising the bicycles and a car slows down to a stop behind me. I move to raise the second bicycle up and notice that a very young girl (I’m old enough to not be able to tell ages of those below twenty-five) behind the wheel. She looks like she’s swallowed something bad, and I return her stare calmly from behind my mask. It must be slightly unnerving to hold the stare of someone masked, and I get self conscious about it, and move to raise up the last bicycle. The car quickly drives off and I think she probably thought I was stealing the bicycles or something. I make sure the bicycles won’t fall again by putting them at the correct angle, and test both of them a bit to make sure.

I grab my own bicycle and I’m about to do a little musketeer bow to the two bicycles I just raised (don’t ask me why I do this). She comes running down the street, I look at her since she seems to be running at me. She stops right in front of me, and I pull down my mask remembering the effect it might have from before. She reaches out to hold on to the sleeve of my jacket. She doesn’t say anything for a little while, and I gather she’s grappling with what to say. I ask simply “How are you feeling?”, a go to question that’s stuck in me from many years of being a therapist. It makes absolutely no sense to ask a stranger, and that’s why I love doing it. It’s just quirkily fun and absurd to ask. She frowns and shakes her head and says (in Danish) “Why did you raise up those bicycles?” whereto I answer – well prepared – “I do it because I don’t want to find my own bicycle fallen”. She gets tears in her eyes and hugs me and says “That’s what I hoped”. I want to hug her back but I’m awkwardly holding my bicycle with one arm and the other is caught in her embrace. She’s short enough to have pretty much trapped me, and I can comfortable look down on her hair. I smell it, because I want to remember her smell. She lets me go and looks at me with tears in her eyes “Why are there not more people like you?”, and I guess she’s actually asking “Why are there not more people like me?” but I hold myself back from going straight into philosophy. I stumble towards expressing something like “I think there is” but it comes out sounding weird, and I shake my head and I say “Sorry, there’s not, I don’t mean that, I also wish that there is”.

She looks me up and down and asks me for my number, and I just say it, but she isn’t ready and she takes a little time to find her phone from her bag and says “Ok, one more time, you don’t have to answer, but I might write you, is that ok?” and I answer “If I don’t have to answer it’s ok”, and add “I mean I’m not saying I won’t…” awkwardly. She looks at me, and we both feel a rising self consciousness and I decide to deflate it by saying “Well, I’ll leave before it gets even weirder, maybe I’ll hear from you someday”, she asks for my name, and I give it to her, and them I’m off on my bicycle. A huge smile spreads across my face and I instantly feel a pang of guilt of not having asked for her name.

I ride my bicycle towards the city, and the sun comes out between the clouds. I feel like its rays are meant for me.

Big man – Little girl

We met in London the year before, and now she came to stay with me for a few days to explore Copenhagen. The visit had a calming effect on the both of us, and without any pressure we found our way into a soft and gentle interaction, because our desires were similar.

Our desires for interaction overlapped enough that there seemed to be an easy harmony between us. But again, this was not a harmony growing out of listening and adapting, it was the case that we both found that we wanted the same, and then I began guiding us into what I wanted. I was playing the leader, and she was playing the follower. But I didn’t know. I was under the impression that this was harmony, that this was sensitivity.

On the second last day of her visit we were cuddling and talking on the couch. I touch upon the subject of how men in our culture are rewarded for knowing what they want and expressing it, while women are rewarded for diplomacy and listening. This has been taken to a point where many women have expressed to me a difficulty in being able to sensing their own desires when among many strong-willed men. Men express to me that they have a hard time being sensitive to the desires of their less outspoken peers when their own needs haven’t been met.

My visitor confirmed this exact experience and we went into a deeper reflection on our experiences with this. During the conversation I got curious about whether she could feel what she wanted right now with me. I was interested in my own ability to listen in this particular moment. It is always a bit delicate to move from a theoretical discussion about psychology into the immediate experience. And when I asked her she wasn’t completely sure if my desires were overpowering hers. So I decided to try and turn down my volume. This is a very abstract act that I interpreted to simply being: Wanting less. So I began to tweak all my wants, desires and needs around her and this situation. I started to “want what I wanted less”.

As my own volume went down I started noticing that I slowed down. The conversation and the cuddling became slower. I did less, and I performed less. I was less driven in my movements and my desire, and more inspired by her needs and desires. I noticed that I didn’t need to perform, I could simply let her act and become a reaction to her. I went into a state of having almost no voice of my own. And then something strange happened to my interpretation of immediate physical reality.

Since her physical form is much smaller than mine, I had my arms wrapped around her so that I could touch my elbows with my fingertips. As my wish needs and desires diminished, I noticed that my physical size shrank with them. Not in the sense of the actual physical volume becoming smaller, but in the sense that I saw myself as smaller. She felt like a planet that I couldn’t even dream of moving. My intuition told me that if I tried to move her, then I would be moved. My touch became one of gentle brushing against a solid immovable object. My form was suddenly found within her space, rather than her within mine. I was engulfed in her area/zone/space and I was suddenly an explorer inside a vast world with many more details and inspirations that I could possibly imagine. I insist that this was not a feeling though, it was the actual impression of physical reality that shifts.

I had become a smaller person.

She says about the experience…

”I could definitely feel more space when you turned down your volume. I could feel that there was less of “your noise” (I’m not saying that in a bad way, I don’t find the right words right now) and so I could take the time I needed to tune in with what I wanted. Or in a way I felt like there was more space to co-create, like when you dance with someone and there is no leader or follower, you just move together and it creates something beautiful.”

Finding your sense of size

I understand that it is a bit abstract to talk about size. Noticing your sense of size is a bit like noticing sitting on the floor, and then noticing that you can imagine that you are sitting on the ceiling. Maybe you can imagine that you’re really not on the floor, and then look upwards and notice that you are looking “down” at the ceiling. What I want to convey with this is that sometimes we take our interpretation of reality for granted. This can lead us to think that it is fundamental reality, and that it cannot be changed. In the case of size I was surprised to see that the change was incredibly immediate and intimately observable.

What I mean by size is the sense of your spatial representation (quite abstract I know). Maybe you remember cringing when you feel ashamed, trying to fit into your sense of size? Do you remember growing in size as you felt pride? Thus fitting into your sense of spatial intuition. Your actual relative size to other physical objects is of course static, but your sense of relative-own-form-size shifts all the time. Normally outside of your control. Most of us feel comfortable in our own size so we relax and simply “fall into our body”. Some feel like they should be bigger or smaller, or experience a dissonance between their body shape and their body image.

Here I wish to talk about actively matching your size to those you meet. That means to some extend letting go of the hard link between your desired size, experienced physical volume and what I will from here on call your sense of size. That is the size sensed as you finally experience yourself. Perhaps it would help to take extra care to notice how people puff themselves up, or shrink physically. Notice when others make you feel small, and see that the word small here is not really a metaphor, but is actually a shift in your sense of size.

Listening instead of playing domination games

In my experience it is a magical feeling once two people try to match their size, in that both begin to listen intently to the sense of size in the other, and so balance their will and importance. If this doesn’t make immediate sense to you I suggest you to play a game with a lover.

Sit down with a person you are comfortable kissing. Now kiss the other with the intention of noticing exactly how they kiss. Do they use the upper lip or lower lip most? How much pressure do they apply? Do they chase you or do they pull back more often? Do they use the tongue, and how much, and how? Now that you have gotten a clear mental image of the way your kissing-partner kisses, both of you take a ten second break to think about it. Then you kiss your partner in the way they kiss you. See how it feels to you, notice what is different.

I came up with this game by accident in a restaurant in Lviv, with no intention of using it therapeutically, but have done so since.

The effect of matching our size means that no-one is more important. No desire or want is stronger, and so guiding and manipulating will become absurdities. That leaves a reliance on that which ‘just’ is, and in my experience leads to a profound ‘common experience’. An empathy with a shared experience that I believe is present underneath all other games. Usually though it is hidden away behind personal agendas. This empathy can become so strong that you will be able to describe intimate physical sensations in the person you are communicating with. My own intuition is that it is not really empathy, but a description of the same shared experience, as it is, seen by two beings at once.

If you find it hard to control your sense of size, I would start out by first controlling the drive behind your wills and wants. Just turn them down, shrink them in size till you want less. This in and by itself may be very hard for you, but you can turn to imagery like seeing your desires as an image in your mind and just making it shrink. I wouldn’t suggest increasing the potency of your desires to meet size. Rising up to someone is more like meeting a challenge, and I feel it is up to the one who is talking the loudest to quiet down rather than others to speak louder. I feel genuinely sorry for the loud person who cannot hear, and cannot hear that people are asking him to quiet down. Sometimes all we can do is wait in silence for someone to scream themselves hoarse.

The effects of matching sense of size

When you match your size with another person you will likely experience a sense of synchronization between desires and sensual experiences.I felt dissonances only when the other person clearly began either having an agenda, or instinctively wanted to be guided. Overwhelmingly the experiments with size have been received with a positive feelings. My sensual/sexual encounters especially have gone from being ones of desire and fulfilment to playful exploration of a common experience. Games of “what might he/she want?”, “if I say yes to this, do I then also have to do this?” and “I wonder if he/she really wants me?” turned into just feeling what was immediately in front of all of us.

There may many ways to achieve a balancing of intention, will and sense of importance between two people. In my experience balance was connected directly with my own sense of size. I ended up spending a lot of time experimenting with my sense of size and it has lead me to a very profound way of meeting people and recognizing and sometimes avoiding games of dominance. I’ve been able to meet people who felt heard and seen in a way that made them open up and share more of themselves openly. I personally believe that there is much more to these fundamental impressions about our physical being, and that they can lead us to a deeper understanding of our feelings and of being in the world.